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November 2012

Hal Sirowitz is one of the funniest poets I have ever heard read. There is something about his deadpan, Steven Wright delivery that makes his monologue poems sound like stand up routines.

Many people know him best for his three "said" books - Mother Said , My Therapist Said and Father Said . In poems like "Red, Red Bra" and others, he gives us monologues that are full of irony, humor and Sirowitz.

A simple prompt: a poem that is all monologue. Mother said, father said, therapist, teacher, lover, wife, husband - it's your call.

For more on this prompt and others, visit the Poets Online blog.


“Your cat is always complaining.” I hear this news
from the lady next door She is a curvy brunette with
soft brown eyes and lashes that are sweetly downcast.
She also understands cat talk. She has 8 cats, all
Of them girls and all have been “Fixed”. My cat
Is also a girl and has had the “operation.” My
Neighbor tells me that is at the root of all their
Problems. I listen carefully, trying to nod in
Agreement as I gaze into those soft brown eyes.
Yes, I have been guilty of throwing table scraps
Into my cat’s food dish. “Insulting?” I ask. I
Didn’t realize. But I am careful about stepping
On her tail. If I were a cat, I wouldn’t like that
Either. And no, I would never pick her up by
The scruff of her neck.

So one of her best friends is a dog? Did she say
Who he was? The poodle in the next apartment?
The St. Bernard downstairs! Really?” She steps
closer to comfort me and I smell her perfume which
actually smells like canned tuna. “People must learn
to listen to their kitties,” she is telling me. I hear a
growl by the front door. She peeps out “Hector!” she
cries. “Damn him! Marcella promised me she was
not going to see him again. Ever!” Her eyes grow
narrow and beady. “You know, I believe my girls
are not telling me everything. Sometimes, I - I try
not to, but I believe they may be lying.!” She looks
at me accusingly. “It was your cat who started it, you
know. The girls and I were a happy family until SHE
came!” Her eyes have taken on that glittering, dagger look.
“I’ll have a talk with her.” I say, drawing away.
She tells me to let her know, and I close the door and
Draw the chain. Then I pour my cat a dish of cream.
While I check the TV movie guide.

Marian Veverka

I said don’t smack, you smacked, he smacked, neither smack, both
Stop now, but once started he couldn’t
Like he couldn’t stop the loop of words
That drew the air around him
And made him know that he was real
Marking his boundary like a scribbled map
The little one cried for the injustice of it all
For the loss of the brother he might have had
One who talked properly
And played and helped him create his ever-expanding worlds
After school in the lingering summer light

Iris Lavell


They advertised me as German
Shepherd, the dog said. Did that
prompt you to address me as “Sitz”
and “Bleib”? That just made me spin
in circles and chase my tail. Yes, you
tried to learn Dog - eye contact, body
language. Pats and praise. And I tried
too. I learned your “Sit” and “Stay.”
But I died before I ever could master
“Now what did I do with my keys?”
My pups grew up bilingual, second-
generation Human. But none of them
could learn to “Stay” more than 12
or 13 years - never long enough to
suit you. And you're still trying
to understand what we say.

Taylor Graham


Don’t go to Palisades Park, my mother said,
because nice girls don’t go there. Girls who
go to Palisades Park ride the merry-go-round
in skirts and people can see their underpants
when they lift one leg to get up on a horse.
Some girls hold the fronts of their skirts between
their legs to hide their underpants and then everyone
thinks that they’re touching themselves down there.
You could be on a date with a boy from the good side
of town across the park and the boy would decide
you’re not a nice girl if you touched yourself down there
and he would expect more from you when he drove you
home, maybe even try to touch you down there in the
front seat of the car while he was steering up Route Four
and singing songs with the radio and that could get you
in a good accident. Then you’ll be happy?

Gail Fishman Gerwin


you always said
"I don’t care if you Swing from the Rafters
as long as you live in my house, there are rules
cleaning, clothing, dating and worshiping rules"
I left your house—never yearning to return
one day your brain numbed
your memory began to
Swing from the Rafters
you forgot the rules
you brushed your teeth with diaper cream
rolled deodorant on your cheeks
buttoned your sweater as if it were a skirt
you forgot
where you lived
your prayers
and how to swallow
you became
my teenager, child, toddler
then bed-bound, stiff, in pain
finally, my baby
through the glass darkly
I never left you
or let you
Swing from the Rafters

Lisa Honecker


I like vampires, said my wife
in answer to my question about
why she was watching something
on the television.
She pronounced it as the Old French vampyre.
They feed on life's essence, she continued
unbidden. They are sexy.
I tell her that I read the word vampire
came from the Czech vpeřit meaning "to thrust violently."
Don't be an idiot, she said.
Your grandparents may have been Czech,
but you are no vampire.

Ken Ronkowitz


We had a substitute teacher today, she said.
He did this weird thing with his mouth.
Like he mouthed the words before he said them.
Like he was rehearsing them or something.
We didn’t like him. He didn’t tell us
why Miss Schluger was out. He just
shows up in the middle of our poetry unit
moving his mouth and mouthing the words
and writing something illegible on the blackboard
and holding the chalk like a pen so it makes this
sound like oh my god please stop and no one
can read it because it looks like algebra
or something. So Cici Santucci
raises her hand and asks him what it says,
and he does the mouth thing and says it says
what is the smallest unit of poetry?
like it’s math or science or something.
So Caroline Coakley raises her hand and says
in a voice that says she’s got the right answer,
the smallest unit of poetry is the stanza.
But he shakes his head no and opens his eyes
wide like he’s looking around for something
he’s already got and wants us to give it to him.
And someone says it’s the line, and someone
says it’s the word. And now my stomach is
making these sounds like oh my god please stop,
and I look around and up and there’s Robert
Frost smiling down at us from his high
horse and snowy woods on the bulletin board
and someone says the rhyme and someone says
the foot. And I could care less because I hate
poetry now and this weird guy with his mouth
and his word problem like math in the middle of
poetry. Then suddenly it grows silent like everyone
is stumped or dumb or dead or something, and even
my stomach has stopped like it’s listening hard, and the sub
tilts his head like he’s listening hard, but he’s smiling
like there’s something funny in the air. But
there’s nothing in the air but silence. And air.

Paul Hostovsky


Point your toes, my teacher said.
You don’t want your foot flopping around
like a dead fish. Don’t look down.
Are you spotting your head?
Didn’t you learn this in third grade?
Keep that knee straight. Pull up
like there’s a string running through you
all the way to the ceiling. Keep it taut.
Put more lipstick on. Don’t forget to smile.
And spot your head! Remember to breathe.
You know the steps. You’ll be fine.

Michelle Lesniak


Mother had some good advice:
she said, don't toss your bras into the dryer,
don't tell the neighbors
your business
or annoy the doctor with your problems
which are smaller
than the mole on your shoulder.
Hold your tongue at family dinners,
and why don't you do something
or something with that hair?
Don't spend your time scribbling
in your room day and night;
what sort of wife will you make
with ink stains on your fingers?

And all true, too,
but no words dispensed
to protect me from the likes
of you, my friend.

Mother, better said,
beware a face
that would make a false floor
look safe,
or a wit that could split atoms
cleaner than a molecular laser.

But such a word-weaver as I
should have read the signs
that any poet knows:
sometimes truth must be skewed,
sacrificed to find the rhyme
and meter that matter more
and have twice the charm
of sincerity.
After all, friendship's over-rated,
a commodity better sold
on Overstock or EBay
at Walmart
with a money-back guarantee,
a pain-free exchange that leaves you
richer, if not a bit breathless
in its brevity.

Mother, better said:
don't toss your heart
into a microwave
or tell your soul one-sided stories
which are sweeter than reality.
Seal your lips at luncheons,
and for God's sake, do something
first--and fast--before you spill
your wine and your secrets
on the table.
What a mess! And I've told you,
time and time again,
less time spent inside your head
fiddling with words
would give your life some clarity.

But I suppose mother didn't know
that I'd meet you
and need an arsenal
much larger than some common sense
and a few cosmetic items.

And yet, in retrospect,
I see her wisdom since
I always hang my bras out on the line
to dry.

Robyn Mackie Judge


The fortune cookie said
"You will not find what you are looking for today."
"When did these cookies get so negative?"
I said. Yes, we all know that the wheel of Fortuna
can turn for good or bad. A goddess of Fate,
represented as veiled and blind,
like our modern Justice.
"Here, take mine," said my companion.
Whether you can or can not
take someone else's fortune is debatable.
This one said
"Someone was thinking of you today."
As with most of life - and the cookie itself - it was dull.

Charles Michaels


One day, while sitting in class, my teacher tells us,
Write a poem she said. It will be fun she said.
We had to write a tanka. I didn't know what to write about. I didn't even know what that was.
Five, seven, five, seven, seven she said. You'll have fun she said.
So I set to work on this poem, of five seven five seven seven. I racked my brain trying to do this.
You don't have to follow the structure, it's a loose one she said. You're supposed to have fun she said.
Now the idea of writing a structured poem, but not following the structure, is quite ridiculous to me.
Here is my poem I said. I don't know if I would consider this fun I said.

The absurdity
of the structure of poems
Why even bother?
If nobody follows it,
why not just call it free verse?

I spoke to my friend about it. She told me I was being silly and to not worry about the syllables.
I can't do that I said. I can't go against what I'm writing about I said. It's supposed to be fun I said.
Then I continued to write and work on this work of art, to criticize the structure of the art.
You're poetically pathetic she said. You're not even having fun she said.
I finished my poem with great satisfaction and walked up to my friends, and read it.
That's pretty good they said. At least you had fun they said.
So its quite obvious what others say and how the purpose is to have fun, so I've heard. So I looked to the sky and said,
I'm a poet and I didn't know it I said. And I think I had fun I said.
Write a poem she said. It will be fun she said.
I did and it was.

Emily Pittenger


Sylvester E, Hyde said he
liked his cat pajamas best.
He insisted there wasn't
anything wrong with the bunny
jumpsuit he received from
Great Aunt Tilly... just that the
soft warm flannel silhouette
of Mr. Whiskers was so much
more inviting. He said they
felt like a great, big mama hug
or a mug of hot cocoa smack in
the middle of a snowstorm.
Besides, Goldy, the cat with
the yellow eyes felt the same way.
He explained how Goldy
idled by his side most of
the time except when they
split a can of tuna. Sylvester
said it didn't get any better than that.

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


"You are beautiful," you said,
And I turned my head to
Growl at the object of your fancy.

"You are wonderful," you said,
And I looked down at my tufted brown feet
Doggedly wishing it were true.

"You are special," you said,
And I barked a laugh at the rose colored
Glasses perched on the end of your nose.

"You are good," you said,
And I whimpered at images
Of discovered trails or mess and carnage.

But then you said, "I love you,"
And everything fell into place
As you opened the door of my cage

And we walked out of the shelter
Together into a golden sunset.
"Come on," you said, "an evening like this
Is made for a good long walk."

Maddison Ross